PAN AFRICAN CONFERENCE ON ACCESS TO INFORMATION
Statement of the Working Group on Access to Information on African at the 51st Session of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights
Banjul April 2012
Ladies and Gentlemen,
MISA on behalf of the working group on APAI composed of MISA, AFIC, Article 19, IFJ, MFWA, Highway Africa, TAEF, MRA and ODAC, than you for this opportunity to address the 51stSession of the African Commission on Human and Peoples’ Rights.
We would to reiterate our resolve to support the mandate of the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access to Information in Africa and the ACHPR in general to advance freedom of expression and access to information on the continent.
Access to Information forms an integral part of Freedom of Expression, guaranteed by Article 9 of ACHPR and part IV of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa. This year marks the tenth anniversary of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa.
2011 marked the 20th anniversary of the Windhoek Declaration on Promoting an Independent and Pluralistic African Press under the theme Access to Information, and saw the number of countries with Freedom of Information legislation increase in number from five to ten.
In September 2011, the Pan African Conference on Access to Information convened in Cape Town, which represented the largest gathering of experts on access to information on the continent, and brought together representatives from more than 300 people from African governments, African Union Commission, UNESCO, the UN Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression an Opinion, the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Information in Africa, human rights, civil society organizations and the media.
The conference resulted in the adoption of the African Platform on Access to information declaration, which reiterates the centrality of access to information and its importance in the promotion and protection of fundamental human rights and in advancing democratic values and accountability.
The Declaration acknowledges the gains made at the regional and international levels the adoption of the Declaration of Principles on Freedom of Expression in Africa, in October 2002, the recent initiative to develop a Model Law for AU Member States on Access to Information, the recognitation of the rights of access to information in six African Union treaties and various initiatives to apply RTI in various sectors
To date, 91 countries around the world have adopted Access to Information laws, out of this number, 10 are in Africa. These are Africa-South Africa, Liberia, Uganda, Nigeria, Ethiopia, Tunisia, Guinea-Conakry, Niger, Angola and Zimbabwe, besides many countries in Africa have joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative, the International Aid Transparency Initiative and the Open Government Partnership; and that the Economic Community of West African States in moving towards adoption of a binding Supplementary Act for a Uniform Legal Framework on Freedom of Expression and Right to Information;
Despite these major strides, we are concerned that most African countries have not yet adopted comprehensive ATI laws or regulations and that significant problems remain with both the substantive provisions of many of those that have adopted laws and the full implementation of the laws;
Civil society organizations around the world have adopted 28 September as International Right to Know Day.
We appreciate the endorsement of APAI Declaration by the NGO Forum preceding the 51st session of this session and support their resolutions and call upon ACHPR to:
1. Pass a resolution authorizing the ACHPR Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Access of Information in Africa to expand Part IV of the Declaration of Freedom of Expression in Africa to include principles of APAI Declaration
2. Pass a resolution requesting the AU Heads of State Summit of January 2012 to adopt September 28 as an International Right to Information Day
3. Urge AU member states to adopt and effectively implement national Access to Information laws that comply with the APAI Declaration and the draft model law on ATI being developed by the Commission through the Special Rapporteur on Freedom of Expression and Information in Africa.
4. Pass a resolution requesting the African Union Summit of June 2012 to initiate an Experts meeting to develop a continental wide instrument on the right of Access to Information.
Thank you for your kind attention